By Alex Bridges
A walking path to connect downtown Strasburg to the Food Lion on U.S. 11 progresses as the town studies design and accessibility needs.
Geology would pose a challenge for such a project, staff told members of Town Council on Monday. But at this stage the path design remains the bigger issue, staff advised the council's Infrastructure Committee.
Town Manager Judson Rex reminded council that the current budget included some funds for preliminary work on the path, such as soil testing and drilling as well as drafting designs.
Councilman Scott Terndrup voiced concern with designing the path in such a way that it would attract more users. Terndrup commented that building a sidewalk so close to the highway could present safety issues. He said adding lights as suggested by another council member may not be a good idea because the lighting may attract more users at night.
"We are actually, in a sense, creating a public hazard by building something there," Terndrup said.
Councilwoman Sarah Mauck noted that people already walk along the road at night without a sidewalk or lighting.
Public Works Director Mark Gundersen said the town hired two consulting firms to help the town research the existing right of way, deeds and easements along the potential path. The firms and staff also conducted testing of the soils that revealed the presence of limestone and showed a high probability for Karst topography and the potential for sinkholes.
As Gundersen explained, the testing involved taking samples by drilling into the ground until the drill bit struck rock. Samples included 2- to 4 inches of topsoil then clay. Drilling hit rock at an average depth of five feet. Gundersen said this means the terrain offers little suitable soil for a trail without crews having to blast rock.
But as Gundersen noted in his update, council must decide on the type of trail it wants. Options include a sidewalk that requires a minimum width of five feet or a shared-use path for both pedestrians and bicyclists that must span 10 feet or a hybrid of the two. A shared-use path, divided down the center, allows use by pedestrians and bicyclists, Gundersen explained.
Council's direction would determine the design standards the town needs to meet. Standards also include maximum slopes for the shared-use paths and sidewalks. Sidewalks and paths also must comply with accessibility requirements under the Americans With Disability Act.
The path's design depends heavily on the right-of-way configuration along U.S. 11. Rex noted that the amount of right-of-way varies widely along the highway. This could pose a challenge for the project and would require approval by the Virginia Department of Transportation. The agency also may need to grant waivers for certain design requirements, Rex said.
One option calls for the town to build a path with more of a sidewalk appearance from the current terminus on North Massanutten Street to Crystal Lane. The sidewalk could then change to a shared-use path for the remainder of the stretch.
In response to a question by Councilman Don Le Vine, Gundersen said the path could include landscaping for aesthetics.
Gundersen mentioned that an option used in Leesburg calls for a wrought-iron fence along sections of the path. Strasburg could use this option should the path go in front of the wall along U.S. 11. The town also could put the trail behind the wall because the right-of-way exists beyond the wall.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org